Maximilian Wiedemann is, by his own admission, a graffiti artist for internal walls. The founder of Imitate Modern Gallery and former advertising strategist has an eye for bold, imposing imagery that strikes a chord with the Instagram generation. Is his work cynical? To some, perhaps, but it’s hard to argue with Wiedemann that even a basic grasp (or even exposure to) advertising gives tremendous insight into how society – in a truly global sense – is being warped and seduced by brand culture and raw materialism.
It’s Wiedemann’s position that art – even while using the same consumer tactics to attracting more attention, likes, shares and purchases – can be the antidote to that simply by forcing people to confront the fact actively, as opposed to being passively complicit.
After interviewing him back in 2016 ahead of his collaboration with Collier Bristow, we had the pleasure of speaking to Max at the launch of his latest London exhibition – ‘Obsession of Society‘ – at COYA Mayfair about the intersection of contemporary art and advertising, his approach to juggling creativity and consumerism, and his wider thoughts on the artistic community.
FAULT: How does your background in advertising influence your work?
Maximilian Wiedemann: Advertising was my education. My idea was to take the false seduction that revolves around advertising and turn it into art. The art of seduction. Advertising gave us the opportunity to find the key to address materialism and address status in Society via brand culture. Drip until you drop. Full stop.
I got into this by coincidence. Philosophy writes. Art draws. It’s up to each one to read the signs. My signs are in the walls. I love life and would like to inspire every one who is working on a canvas right now. Just move the muscle. Eventually dreams are reality. Just keep painting. Just keep going on.
Your work draws on a range of sources – inspired by your international upbringing. In a world that seems to be hurtling towards the enforcement of borders and nationalism, what message does your work carry in terms of internationalism and globalisation?
Maximilian Wiedemann: My source is Biggie Smalls.
What was your breakthrough moment as an artist?
Maximilian Wiedemann: VH 1 / MTV Divas campaign, 2009. It was the moment when I quit my job, in a bar with my boss. I had a job as new business strategy director in a boutique agency in London . Elle Macpherson had just commissioned me to her campaign and I had to call a status meeting with my boss. He said, “Be good at one thing in you life. New business for branding agencies or art.” I quit. But I choose both. In essence, I am new business. Art-vertising.
What do you consider ‘beauty’ to be?
Maximilian Wiedemann: Nice one. I would rather marry my soul mate than beauty. Beauty is replaceable. Souls are not…
Wait – what was the question again? I think life is the biggest gift. The ‘wake up in the morning and be able to perform’. To wake up and follow your mission. Heath is key to perform. So watch your ‘Bildzeitung’ and your body.
Your work seems very much a comment on commodity culture – how does this square with your own position within the art market?
Maximilian Wiedemann: What you buy to is who you are.
How do you see the art world evolving in the next decade?
Maximilian Wiedemann: Money makes the market. The big players evolve. I do think it’s all fucked, as my messages are so relevant. I’m just in this business to have fun and communicate current zeitgeist messages.
Your work seems to make much reference to online culture, where images are both widely available and widely spread. How does this generation, and the connectedness of the internet, influence your work?
Maximilian Wiedemann: My art aims to connect irony and sustainability. I have no connection.
If you had to give advice to young artists, what would it be?
Maximilian Wiedemann: Paint!! Move the muscle!!! It will all evolve. The main key is movement!
How would you like to be remembered?
Maximilian Wiedemann: If I am worth it.
Do you consider your work cynical or optimistic?
Maximilian Wiedemann: It’s real. Relevant. It’s just a brutal reflection on how messed up society is right now. I don’t have to explain that. Just look at what works on Instagram.
Enhancing each individual gastronomic experience is the COYA Collective – a schedule of diverse genres of artistic and cultural expressions, setting the rhythm for an unmistakably Latin American ambience. COYA Mayfair honours both traditional and contemporary cultural offerings, ensuring that the heart of Latin American culture is experienced throughout the venue. In addition to the vivacious music scene, COYA Mayfair also showcases a variety of established and upcoming photographers, artists, illustrators, sculptors and immerging talent alike with year-round hosted events.
The COYA Collective is a signature movement that defines COYA’s ethos and beliefs. It has pushed against tradition to create a multi-dimensional platform for guests to not only dine but feel the entire experience with all the senses. Combining the elements of vibrant live music, home to a showcase of compelling art and an array of the city’s most colourful festivities, the COYA Collective creates an altruistic, cultural experience uniquely COYA.
Each COYA property has the opportunity to welcome various artists to adorn the walls of the COYA Members’ Club and in some cases, the restaurant and Pisco Bar & Lounge with each special exhibition lasting 6-8 weeks. The singular relationship that all global COYA properties have with each artist is special. The COYA properties curate and build their own very special collection through the memento pieces left behind by each artist as a gifted symbol.
Watching Ghetts – or Ghetto as he was known back then, transform from rowdy, ex prison inmate into Ghetts, the most pleasant and respectful man, wonderful father and lyrical genius whose name is now often bandied about in those ‘Greatest MC of All Time’ conversations, is such a joy to behold. Ghetts, the grown man is nothing like what you would expect from his intense stage presence. He is charming, poised, attentive and a very intelligent conversationalist. Here we discuss colourism in the U.K. and raising a dark skinned daughter, the time he had to write a war dub (diss record in grime terms) on Valentines Day and the new album, ‘Ghetto Gospel: The New Testament’.
FAULT Magazine: Just from the roll out your new album, “Ghetto Gospel: The New Testament’ looks like a very well thought out project with a lot of time and effort put into it?
Ghetts: Two years. I’ve been recording the music since January. I just wanted to give the campaign the same thought process as I did the music and not just throw it out there. I wanted to have videos that reflected the time we spent on the music and have artwork that represented that as well.
FAULT Magazine: The press release is calling this, ‘7 songs to tell his story’ is that an accurate description of what to expect?
Ghetts: It gets deep at times… but then at times it’s light hearted. Everything about me that people already know is packaged in there and then I’ve grown… I am a lot more comfortable in my own skin, so I’m able to dive in deeper and talk about situations that are going on around us now. In terms of ‘gang violence’ and whatnot… not even preaching about the situation, because I understand the various perspectives that contribute to that and why its much more deep rooted than just, ‘I’m going to kill you’. I try to share all the perspectives of the people involved… the different layers.
FAULT Magazine: Which brings me to the single, ‘Black Rose’ which is a song about colourism. It’s very interesting and refreshing to see a grime artist talk about colourism in this way, especially in the actual music?
Ghetts: First and foremost, I needed my daughter to understand certain things and even if she doesn’t quite understand yet, I’m just trying to empower her. I guess I can do that at home – and I do that at home – but she understands that I have a platform. It started with ‘Daddy, why do people stop you all the time and take pictures’ and now, when she’s trying to be funny she’ll be like, ‘Ghetts!’ [laughs] So when I realised that was happening and she knew people were listening to me, I thought, ‘nah… I’m at a stage where I definitely have to think about what I’m doing.’ I want her to be proud throughout her life.
As a song, I battled with myself. I fought with myself as to whether I was going to release ‘Black Rose’ first or not. I’ve touched on that topic before, but I’ve never done a full song, a video… I’m thinking, ‘I know my demographic… and if this misses, it really misses’ and it will really fall on deaf ears. I could do it the other way around and get everyone’s attention by doing what I normally do and then drop Black Rose whilst I’ve got their attention, but then I thought, If I do what I normally do, I wont even be able to get back to that place.
FAULT Magazine: The feedback has been very positive from women, but I’m curious as to how men have digested a track like this?
Ghetts: Different rappers have seen me and been like, ‘yeah man, that was needed’. Growing up I had a bit of that… [colourist views] It all changed at some point. I don’t know when or how old I was – I’ve been in the lime light for so long – but I know dark skin men were not always thought of like that. Growing up I would never get the most girls and stuff…
FAULT Magazine: Do you think that was solely down to your complexion?
Ghetts: What are you trying to say that I was just dead? [laughs]
FAULT Magazine: No, but back in the day you were a bit wild. So maybe that put the girls off?
Ghetts: No, I used to get girls because of that. Dark skinned women definitely experience colourism differently from dark skinned men. That song was based on me arguing with my friends about this topic. I have mad arguments on this topic. People know they can’t say certain things around me.
I know that colourism starts from my daughter’s age and even before. The lack of back dolls [mentioned at the beginning of the song] are just one aspect, but we are also influenced by what we see on TV etc… We are now in a day and age where guys like me may look for what they deem as an ‘exotic’ girlfriend to have this super-race child. So if you have that way of thinking, you are going to project that kind of thinking on to my child and she has to go to school with these children – my kid – so if my kid isn’t that strong and doesn’t know where she is from, it is going to affect her.
I’m from Jamaica and when I go back home, I can see that kind of thing in my family already. So watching her [my daughter] I can already see that its a real problem for her.
FAULT Magazine: In terms of the journey we witness on the album, which track was the hardest to write?
Ghetts: That would be ‘Jess Song’. My friend had Osteosarcoma, bone cancer. She’s really outspoken, and one day she rang me like, ‘Yo, you p*ssyhole’ and I was just like… [laughs], because that was so typical of her. Then she said, ‘ you know I’m dying right? no-one survives this’ and I was like, ‘come on Jess, don’t say that. If anyone is going to survive this, it’s you’ and then she was like, ‘anyway, fuck all of that… you see when I die yeah, you’re going to write a song about me, but I’m not really on that I want to hear my song now’. I was like, ‘Jess you’re mad. How can I write a song about my friend dying?’ but she was adamant, so I said I would sleep on it. I slept on it and I came up with a concept. I rang her and I took her to the studio with me and I told her I was going to write from her perspective. She told me her story from the time she found out she had cancer and I just narrated it… Unfortunately, she died last year in January.
There are a lot of deep songs on the album. Songs to make you reflect.
FAULT Magazine: What about he other side of the spectrum, do you write from that place on the album?
Ghetts: I’m still trying to work out how to write from that perspective. I don’t know how to floss on my community… I’m still trying to work that out, but there is a song called, ‘Houdini’ that is a bit like that where I’m bragging a bit.
FAULT Magazine: Why do you find it hard to do the braggadocious stuff?
Ghetts: It’s not like I have a problem with it I just don’t want it to come from me. I like listening to it, but… I don’t know, my upbringing is really different. I don’t have a big chain yet. I haven’t bought one. Not because I don’t like watches or I don’t like chains, it’s because people that I love are still not in a position where they can come out of where we’re from so it makes me feel guilty. Also, my money only started coming in (in large sums) when I got older, when I could think from a place of maturity, not when I was young.
I’ve got a thing for bikes, motocross bikes. When I’m around I let the kids sit on my bike, because I remember being young and not being able to afford anything like that. It makes me think, ‘I want to build a place for these kids to go and ride motocross bikes.’ You don’t see any young black boys in motocross. It’s a very expensive sport. I just have this thing where I keep thinking, ‘I need to do more with my platform’, I’ve been blessed with this kind of position for a reason.
FAULT Magazine: How long have you felt like this about the platform that you have?
Ghetts: Ages… for a while, still. Just seeing different things and knowing that from my opportunities, should come many other opportunities.
FAULT Magazine: You put a lot of pressure on yourself. How do you feel when you see others with the same platform not really giving things as much thought, or doing unproductive things with the same opportunities you speak about?
Ghetts: It’s one of my business. All these things used to bother me before… other people’s music used to bother me, loads of things… and one day I just let all that go. Everyone is different and no two paths are the same. Not everyone thinks like me and they don’t have to.
FAULT Magazine: There is so much peace in minding your own business…
Ghetts: Trust me! Like now, I don’t care what the next rapper is doing, I don’t care about anybody else.
FAULT Magazine: You said when you first started to delve into music, you were rubbish. How do you evolve from being rubbish into Ghetts and being in these ‘The Greatest MC of All Time’ conversations?
Ghetts: I don’t really know… I wasn’t shit, I was just shit in comparison. There were a lot of things I had to work on. Being in prison really helped me. When I was in jail I used to read a lot. I think that’s why my style is so descriptive.
FAULT Magazine: What kind of stuff were you reading in prison?
Ghetts: Loads of different things… the Bible mostly. Do you remember that show ‘Babyfather’? I read that book in prison and obviously Lenny and George…
FAULT Magazine: Lenny and George… Do you mean ‘Of Mice and Men’?
Ghetts: That’s Lenny and George, man! George and Lenny and them man there.
I read more in prison than I did in school. I never liked school. School is dead and I even think that now and nothing can change my mind. I feel like different people excel at different things and if you keep teaching them in the same format, you’re going to get children like myself that hate school. In school, they just teach you how to be a good employee. if you follow the structure they implement is school, you’re just training to be an employee in the real world. Why are you not teaching kids about taxes, or even how to grow food? Where are the real life skills? But I’m not dissing anybody that has done well in school, because I understand that takes a certain level of brilliance also, but I left school in year 8 and I was gone.
I was mischievous, I wasn’t bad, but then I got stabbed when I was in year 7. That was a major lesson for me. That’s when I learned that life really isn’t fair. I won that fight fair and then I turned around and someone stabbed me. I would never take that lesson back, because it was a prelude to what the word really is.
FAULT Magazine: That is such a contrast, because you are also from quite a strict church background aren’t you?
Ghetts: Yeah, that’s my thing. That’s why there is ‘Ghetto Gospel’ etc.. I still go to church now. Both sides of my family are deeply involved in church.
FAULT Magazine: Bible Study and everything?
Ghetts: Bible study all now! If I go to my nan’s before 9pm… I’m in the study, whether I want to be or not. Seven Day Adventists. That’s what I was saying earlier, my upbringing is different, my thing is just different.
I walked so many paths, man. I grew up a Seventh Day Adventist, I’ve spent time in jail, I’ve been to different schools, music… there are so many things I have experienced that most people wont have.
FAULT Magazine: What is the most common thing people say to you when they stop you in the street?
Ghetts: ‘Legend’ …or ‘You’re mad cool, you know’ people expect me to be my onstage presence, or persona, but obviously that isn’t me 24/7. That is me tapping into the emotion that comes with the music, because I mostly do grime music people see the highest level of energy, so they expect me to be gassed all the time. Some people even offer me cocaine. Now can I just say, on my mum’s life, I have never taken coke… in my life, on my mum’s life. At the same time, I can understand why some people think that, because normally people only usually hit my level of energy when they are on drugs, I just hit that level naturally.
FAULT Magazine: What is the most annoying thing people say to you?
Ghetts: When people talk about other MCs, or clashes, or the Bashy clash from years ago… I find that super annoying. Super, super, super annoying, but then I think, I did bring that on myself [laughs]. That is the worse one though, when people start with that I just turn off in my head. You have to look at the timeline, do you think you are the first person to ever say what you are saying to me now about this situation? Just allow me, man.
FAULT Magazine: I heard Nas say something similar about people always bringing up his beef with Jay Z, that beef must be 20yrs old…
Ghetts: I’ve realised clashing is a heightened energy. Anything you do whilst clashing just spreads like wildfire. Most people are surface listeners, so when they see you that is the only thing they can bring up, because they’ve only been listening via the surface. They haven’t got any albums, all they know is clash. That annoys me. My mind is so far from even wanting to play a part in that.
FAULT Magazine: Are you saying you would never clash again?
Ghetts: I’m not saying that. I’m saying, where I am now and how I think, there are so many things I want to do and (lyrically) killing an MC is not at the top of my list. I feel like it overshadows everything else.
FAULT Magazine: It is a lot of time to dedicate to one person…
Ghetts: Thats how I feel and Im’s slo glad you said that. Do you know where I was one Valentine’s Day? writing a war dub… because I had to. Do you know how I felt at that time? At that moment, I was upset. I just wanted to see my girl like everybody else.
FAULT Magazine: Were you writing that and in that space due to pressure?
Ghetts: You have to understand, you see with the war thing, sometimes your career is on the line.
FAULT Magazine: Is it really though?
Ghetts: It is, because unfortunately war is war. If you get someone of the same calibre, people want to see that battle and if you don’t take part, you may as well halve your listeners. That’s the God’s honest truth. People like to see clashes. It’s like boxing, it’s entertainment and remember these same people – the listeners – they employ you. If you are depriving them of something they want to see… it’s mad and it’s just long. It overshadows everything you’re trying to do. Then all of a sudden another man’s name is in your story. This is my story and I take the chapters seriously.
Reading four-piece Sundara Karma played their biggest ever headline show on 5th October to a delirious crowd at Brixton O2 Academy. Comprised of vocalist/guitarist Oscar Pollock, drummer Haydn Evans, bassist Dom Cordell, and guitarist Ally Baty, the indie pop/rock band has been making music since the tender age of fourteen.
With support from Willie J. Healey and The Magic Gang, the quartet kicked off their gig with gothic number ‘Another Word for Beautiful’, before launching into the more upbeat crowd pleasers ‘A Young Understanding’ and ‘Loveblood’.
The evening saw the band play the entire ‘Youth Is Only Ever Fun In Retrospect’ album, intertwined with a few old favourites such as ‘Flame’, ‘Run Away’ and ‘In the Night’; much to the delight of their captivated fans, who sang along with Pollock word for word on almost every track. The androgynous frontman even jumped into the crowd during ‘Vivienne’.
“Is heaven such a fine thing?” Pollock sang on ‘Olympia’, bathed in the blue luminescence of the stage, which shifted to red as the gig progressed, three white orbs glowing behind him.
Ending their set with ‘Explore’, Drummer Haydn Evans cast his sticks into the crowd before the band exited the stage to a fittingly roaring applause.
Sundara Karma’s lyrics might be about the trials and tribulations of youth, but their evolved sound offsets their young years. Filled with entrancing guitar riffs and soaring vocals, a live show with them is not to be missed.
I’m a huge fan of Polly, the woman beside me says: she’s the best in the business. We’re sitting on the far left of a crowded semi-circle that cups the stage. I can’t hear her exacts words, which are drowned out by both the frank invitations of Khia’s My Neck, My Back and the murmuring crowd around us.
For Underbelly Festival’s debut season, Miss Polly Rae reprises her popular show Between the Sheets with new and exclusive material. Within a cavernous spiegeltent, festooned with lights and disco balls, the lovely MC and her colourful troupe celebrate perversion, outlandish desires, and love in the 21st century. Although advertised as cabaret, the show is more a heady mixture of burlesque, striptease and variety.
Soon the lights are killed and the tent goes pitch black – save for a white, glowing sheet in front of the catwalk. Behind it lies a scene of men and women, angelically silhouetted but suggestively posed. The light flickers softly, and each time the scene shifts: the result is a kind of orgiastic moving picture. It’s a clever little teaser for what proves to be a most excellent and myriad light show.
A lithe figure, purple skinned with neon hair and lips, struts out of the darkness and across the dim stage. Beau Rocks starts us off with a straightforward, purely sensuous dance routine. It feels like a retro sci-fi mixture of burlesque and rave, with a lush chair routine to really get your rocks off. Between the Sheets is very much a millennial production – from the selection of predominantly 90s popular music, down to the costuming.
Beau less than subtly finishes up by pouring glowing, multicolored paint all over herself. After the applause a sultry voice emerges from the audience. Miss Polly Rae, from where I’m sitting, appears to be wreathed by rays of golden light. She slinks towards the stage, flirting and quipping with audience members along the way, as she introduces herself and the show to newcomers. Rae sweetly explains that we are between her sheets – her world of fantasy and desire.
The acts get along at a brisk pace. Most are elaborate stripteases, varying between pastiche or parody, with suitably elaborate outfits. If they aren’t especially sophisticated, one is easily distracted by both the dazzling lights and the troupe’s physical sensuousness. The women are voluptuous, the men chiseled, and all are very limber. Tom Cunningham and Myles Brown prove to be the mainstay of the show, featuring in at least half of it. They are the most dynamic of the bunch (at least on the ground…) both physically and emotively.
Lily Snatchdragon, as Miss Rae’s long-suffering understudy, provides two coarsely comedic interludes. Her character is a mishmash of Oriental Asian stereotypes – ‘I’m Thai but the kimono is Japanese, deal with it’ – down to the saccharine falsetto. Lily bemoans both her lot in life, (avoiding) to clean up after the rest’s escapades, and her desire for British nationality. The highlight is a very blue parody of I’d Do Anything, including raucous suggestions from backstage. Playing desperation for laughs is a tricky thing, and Lily’s momentum does flag at moments however.
Personally, my favourite part of the evening is also the least overtly sexual. Acrobatics partners Duo Visage mesmerise the crowd, almost to complete silence, suspended upon an aerial hoop. Intertwined they perform seemingly impossible feats of contortion and agility, lowering each other down and up and around, all while spinning in the air.
It was a tough one to follow. In barely-there lingerie, Kitty Bang Bang sets the stage aflame – literally so, at the climax – twirling torches and swallowing fire. Yet the striptease and the gyrating almost feels perfunctory here, and definitely a distraction. ‘Pony Play’, with Brown and Cunningham as the stallions and Rae the rider, starts promisingly but ends up feeling a little mechanical.
Wrapping up the show, to everyone’s dismay, Miss Rae proffers one last act. Kitty sweeps the stage again in a flowing black dress, a classic femme fatale, for a jaw-dropping reprise. Stripping the dress away, she climbs into a raised basin of water. I soon receive a light showering, while the Polly fan beside me gets soaked. (It’s sour, she says with a little grimace). Sweat and water dripping down my face, I behold the sexpot – clad in fiery, spinning nipple tassels – getting raunchy and wet inside a giant, also flame-rimmed cocktail glass.
Between the Sheets is an extravaganza of earthly delights, both carnal and otherwise. Director/Art Director Laura Corcoran and Klare Wilkinson have put together a fun production that rises above itself. The focus is on striptease, and the cast is very comfortable in their own skin. Yet the show makes a balancing act of titillation, erotica, laughter and serious stagecraft. It doesn’t always work, but what strikes me is how earnest the troupe appear to be.
‘Love is what it’s all about’, Polly Rae declares in the finale. I might even believe her.
Summer has finally landed in London, and as promised, FAULT Magazine is putting together our very own ‘Where To Dine Summer 2017’ guide to let you know of all about London’s best restaurants.
We recently visited Trading House to see what it had to offer and despite being in banker central, on entering, we were amazed to discover so much life and soul within the venue. With a live performer and marvellously rich décor, we were off to a good start so let’s dive into the meal!
We began where all good meals should, at the bar, where they have an extensive wine list and even larger (and more fun) cocktail menu. From the offset, the bar staff were ready to make our experience as unique with their cocktail menu which boasts original twists on old English classics. To put this into perspective, they can make five different variations of the world famous mojito from a Spiced Pineapple to a softer tasting Peach & Cardamom variation. It being summer, we opted for their Elderflower Gin Coolers and Karma’s A Bitch cocktail; the latter mixes gin, apricot, homemade karma tea-infused syrup and while I have no idea what karma tea is, it’s certainly delicious.
Their nibbles menu is also sufficient enough if you’re only planning on visiting for a few drinks after work too. Start your evening with crispy whitebait, salt and pepper onion petals, pork crackling and or olives if you’re only popping in for a short amount of time.
For our starters, we were spoiled for choice with Trading House offering scotch eggs, calamari, truffle mushrooms, smoked haddock fondue and many other restaurant favourites. We went for the classic dishes to use as a point of reference and compare them to what we’re used to from another restaurant. With that in mind, we tried the crispy calamari and wings in barbeque sauce which were both to die for. The calamari was coated in Piri Piri salt, and I don’t believe I’ll be able to eat them any other way from now on – a great start!
Moving on to the mains and again, we were very impressed by the comprehensive menu. Don’t be put off if you’ll be dining with less adventurous dinner guests as The Trading House caters for everybody. While the lure of the unknown and adventure might take your fancy, The Trading House also features classic dishes such as fish and chips, flat iron steak sandwiches and pan-fried seabass for those with a less adventurous tongue. We thought it’d make for a better review to go with the more out-there offerings however and lucky for us the menu is a playground for the adventurous diner.
Choosing a main course was difficult, and quite frankly, it begs for a second visit because everything sounds delectable. From the new Orleans inspired, prawn and chicken gumbo to lamb kofta or their selection of pies, all of it looked amazing but what The Trading House is famous for is their Hanging Kebabs so it’d be rude not to!
We opted for the salt and pepper pork belly which arrived on your very own spit with the chips at the bottom ready to soak up any rich and flavoursome sauces which drip upon them. Accompanies with sweet chilli and ginger sauce, the meal was oozing with different flavours not often put together but ones which blend surprisingly well.
Non-meat eaters looking to enjoy Trading House’s hanging kebabs can opt for the halloumi, and falafel kebab alongside garlic butter and cauliflower couscous and if you’re a fish lover, Jerk Salmon alongside rice and peas sounds and looked amazing.
If by chance you can still manage dessert, the white chocolate and peanut butter mousse with chocolate and ginger crumb are as great as it sounds. If you don’t share our sweet tooth, we can with real confidence recommend the cheese board.
We admit when we first heard of the Trading House and it’s location in Bank we were a little worried that we’d find nothing but a tourist trap filled with false charm and unnecessary theatrics but we, in fact, found the complete opposite. The Trading House isn’t a themed restaurant, nor one that tries too hard to force a feeling of exclusivity despite its high-end level of customer service. Their cocktails all come at a fair price and in London, it’s not often you’ll be able to get a three-course meal of this quality at under £30 per head.
The Trading House is a great location for laid back date nights with or casual drinks. What that area of London has been missing for too long is a restaurant that provides excellent customer service without compromising the human touch and charm required. For us, Trading House is the perfect example of how to strike the right balance.
Trading House – one of the finest examples of fresh ideas and exciting cuisine in a part of London that sorely needs it. For us, this is one of 2017’s must visits!
Despite being only 18-years young, seemingly everyone from the established indie blogosphere right through to Brooklyn Beckham are sitting up and taking notice of London-based trip-hop, soul-infused singer, Joy Crookes. Having released 60’s-soul inspired, twilight hour baroque-pop ballads in Sinatra and New Manhattan last year, Crookes releases third single ‘Bad Feeling’, a musical shift towards jazz-enthused, R&B grooves showing a tongue-in-cheek side to the singer who wears a myriad of cultural influences on her sleeve.
Citing a range of genres and artists as seemingly polarising as Lauryn Hill, Nancy Sinatra, The Clash, and Van Morrison as inspirations, Crookes’ has developed a mature, multi-faceted sound which bodes well for her forthcoming debut EP release, produced by Tev’n (SBTRKT, Celeste, Lily Allen). Sold out shows last year included a packed-to-the-rafters Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen, with forthcoming gigs at Bushstock Festival in London and a performance at Live Nation’s renowned Source Night on 14th July offering must-see opportunities to see a star in the making.
We recently sat down with Crookes to discuss her intriguing background and how her influences have filtered into a distinctly signature sound.
Many people are linking your music so far to Lauryn Hill – would you say that was a fair assessment?
I love Lauryn Hill, Amy Winehouse, Grace Jones. I love artists that seem real or authentic, so I can say I love their authenticity. I wouldn’t say I was directly inspired by Lauryn Hill. I think it’s more complex than saying I’m inspired by one female artist. I think it’s more that people want to understand what you’re about before they listen to you, and sometimes you get comparisons. I never thought I’d be compared with Lauryn Hill, it’s crazy! I grew up on The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, but I’m from a very eclectic background of music.
What would you say are the most prominent influences from your background?
I’m from South London, which is just a melting pot of cultures. I’m part of one of the biggest Latino communities in London, which is linked to Caribbean and West African communities, while my Dad is Irish. I’m an ethnic chic so I understand the comparisons with someone like Lauryn Hill, but when I’m making music I tend to think more of Nancy Sinatra and Eartha Kitt. I’m quite an emotional person, and I’ve had things happen with family and mental health issues so I think when you suffer experiences like that from an early age, you observe things differently and it can make you quite mature. You feel ten times more than anyone else feels at the time.
Tell us a bit more about the creative process behind your latest single ‘Bad Feeling’?
It’s very tongue in cheek and I wrote the chorus part in that vein. Eartha Kitt is incredible and she’s so cheeky, when she does her videos she looks like a lion or a tiger, so Bad Feeling was much the same in that it was a cheeky song and it was done very quickly. It’s a surface level song, you know, we’ve all been through it. It’s not about immigration or anything, it’s simple. I wrote it during a writing camp and there was a funny moment during the experience that I exaggerated and made it about myself.
You hear a lot of songs taking about relationships where the protagonist is worried the other person is going to leave them, while your take on romance on ‘Bad Feeling’ is more about not being sure of yourself.
I am such a cheeky character but I don’t think you grasp that on New Manhattan or Sinatra. New Manhattan reflects more my Irish emotional side, while Bad Feeling represents the charm and whit of my mum who moved over from Bengal when she was just sixteen. She inspired me to be memorable and I think when you meet people like that you get excited, so I wanted to reflect that side of my personality in the song, and show people that I can be funny and quite cheeky as well as being emotional.
Going back to previous releases such as New Manhattan and Sinatra, there seems to be a lot of dreamy, emotive, Lana Del Rey inspired imagery on those songs, was this a conscious direction in sound?
The one thing I can say about Lana is that if David Lynch made music the result would be her, with the themes of drugs and sex. I’m hugely into Massive Attack, as I grew up listening to the whole Bristol music scene. Their song ‘Unfinished Sympathy’ is a good example, where they have a soul singer with an orchestra and Latin percussion backing her. There is so much going on and so many influences in their music that I couldn’t replicate everything. New Manhattan is a commercially sounding track, but the guitar does have that Lynchian/Nancy Sinatra sound, while the drum beat is straight out of a Massive Attack song.
It’s amazing to be compared to people like Lana Del Rey because that means people are trying to understand the music from a commercial degree, but then if you look in more detail and learn the reasons behind why I added certain influences then it’s a little more complex. I’m 18 years old and a girl from South London who is sponge when it comes to life experiences, so anything my family or my boyfriend says, or even the music I listen to has an impact, so I’m as much of a melting pot as my location and cultural upbringing.
What’s the story behind New Manhattan?
It’s a place in Brussels that I visited with my boyfriend, and I just felt compelled to write an observational story about the area, which quickly developed into a love song. There was a red-light district, so that’s where the lyric ‘I took a picture with my eyes, and I’m frightened of girls in plastic heights’ came from. It hurt to be in an area like that and realise that a country home to the European Commission can also have streets that are filled with hookers and others which are family street markets in contrast, so it was quite difficult for someone who hadn’t been in an area like that before. The general idea with the song was that you can be anywhere and be comfortable as long as you have the right person next to you.
Although it’s still early days, what do you hope to achieve in music?
I would like to be known as iconic, and to feel like I’ve made a difference to people. My favourite subject at school was history, and I had this brilliant history teacher who taught me about different cultures and mental health, which was quite inspirational while growing up in Elephant and Castle at the time. The main issue I remember her talking about was American history and the misuse of power, which can happen to everyone no matter how big or small. I always wanted to write songs from the perspective of being a woman with colour and how it has shaped my life.
FAULT Favourite creative venue, Lights Of Soho have brought their creative nous to the high street with their latest partnership retail behemoth – Fenwick Bond Street.
Entitled ‘Women in Neon’ all works on display were created by female artists. While the whole collection of works can be viewed on the first floor – LOS have also taken over the window display at the street level where Federica Marangoni’s ‘Art Has No Sex’ neon unashamedly illuminates their message.
While all artists have worked with Neon for this exhibition, they all hail from different disciplines and creative backgrounds, the display is fluid and stands as a testament to how both individualism and collaboration can come together to create a true work of art.
“Women in Neon” will be taking a four week residency on the 3rd floor of Fenwick of Bond Street on 20th March and all pieces displayed will be available to purchase.
Read more info on the artists displaying work below:
Linda Bracey is creative director of God’s Own Junkyard, founded by her late husband Chris Bracey. Linda has designed neon artworks and studio ranges for several exhibitions at the Lights of Soho gallery. She has also curated an exhibition of her late husband’s artworks in various London gallery spaces.
Lauren Baker is a British contemporary multidisciplinary artist who exhibits internationally. Her work explores the fragility of life, energy-fields, the after-life and other dimensions. She’s created installations at The V&A, Tate Britain, ran an art workshop at Tate Modern and directed the windows of Selfridges.
Rebecca Mason is a UK based artist using light to convey the darkness within human life, existence and emotion. Rebecca has exhibited in various UK locations including restaurants, bars and galleries.
Dianna Chire is a London based artist. Her practice frequently employs visual puns and bawdy humour as well as a commentary on female identity. Dianna works in mediums of sculpture, performance and neon.
Federica Marangoni is a Venetian artist and designer, working internationally has researched on various materials and technological media throughout her career and has exhibited in many international museums including MoMA (New York 1980), Peggy Guggenheim Foundation (Venice, 2001) and La Triennale di Milano (2016)